College Advice Blog

Jul 12, 2012

Community College: Is It For You?

The world’s job market is becoming so much more competitive, making it a necessity for many to earn a coveted college degree. With so many academic choices out there, how can one determine if a community college or traditional university is right for them? For someone that’s unsure about their educational future, testing the waters in a community college might be the perfect choice. For others, their career aspirations cannot be achieved through the degree programs offered at a two-year college. If you’re confused, here are a few of the pros and cons associated with earning your degree at a community college:

What Exactly is Community College?

Otherwise known as a “technical” or “junior”  college, community colleges are state-funded universities that offer diplomas, certificates and associate degrees. In many instances, the credits earned through the community college are transferrable to a four-year university, if the student later decides to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Many of the people you come into contact with on a daily basis, including nurses, fireman, law enforcement agents, masters of public health professionals, radiology technicians, or even the chef at your favorite restaurant earned their diploma or degree through a community college.

Pros of Attending Community College

For many students, the academic pace, atmosphere and the several other aspects of a community college make attending classes through the university a more realistic fit for their academic goals and lifestyle.
  1. Tuition Costs. One of the biggest arguments in favor of community college is the cost of tuition, which is especially beneficial if you plan on later attending a four-year university. On average, the cost per credit at a junior college is far less, giving students the ability to take “core courses” for far less money.
  2. Flexibility.  Many older adults, working parents and part-time students attend community college. Keeping this fact in mind, many technical schools have altered their course offerings and schedules to make attending classes more realistic.
  3. Smaller Class Sizes. Traditionally, the class sizes at community college are far smaller than those of four-year universities. This offers students the opportunity to interact more closely with instructors and their peers. Conversely, the limited amount of students allows instructors to personalize their lesson plans and pinpoint students that require extra tutelage.
  4. Enter the Job Market. Aspiring to become a physician, psychiatrist or architect is a noble pursuit. Unfortunately, not everyone can attend school for eight to ten years to achieve their dream job. Many students earn certificates and diplomas in one year, which allows them to jump into the job market that much faster. 

Community College Cons

  1. Student Involvement. For the most part, students attending community college are intelligent, driven and striving to achieve academic excellence. There are others, unfortunately, that believe community college is a breeze and their lackluster performance might be bringing down the school’s reputation, causing unnecessary stress on the instructors, and harming your performance.
  2. Lack of Amenities. The majority of traditional, four-year universities offer students housing, meal plans, transportation and a variety of other amenities. For the most part, attending community college doesn’t offer you the ability to stay on campus, obtain a bus pass or eat lunch through a discounted meal plan which many use financial aid to pay for or supplement. Expect to pay for housing, transportation, meals and every other facet out of your own pocket when attending technical school. 
  3. College Experience. Many attend school for the entire “college experience” complete with football games, meeting lifelong friends at the dorm or getting involved in student and extracurricular activities. These options are at best limited through community colleges, so don’t count on attending too many pep rallies or school dances.
  4. Limited Curriculum. Once again, attending “core classes” at community college is a wise financial decision if you plan on one day transferring to a four-year college, but don’t count on these credits getting you far in many instances. You may decide to switch gears and choose an entirely different major through a four-year university, which could render these hard earned credits useless. In most cases, community college also doesn’t offer “specialized” courses, leaving you with an unimpressive hole in your scholastic record.
Whichever university path you choose, do you homework before making any final decisions. For some, getting a degree at a laidback atmosphere, closer relationships with professors and small class sizes makes attending a community college the obvious choice. Others may not find the standard at some technical colleges meets their needs. Some might then consider getting something like a Masters in Public Health

About the Author
Marissa Krause  finished her degree online this last fall and has just begun her own online marketing company.

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